‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’ 1 Corinthians 13:13
There’s a song that says, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” The fact is, no matter what is going on, we all have love to give. As a widow with two older kids at home, sometimes there is not enough money or even time, but love is something I can always give.
The year I graduated from college I thought I had a good plan for my financial life and future. I had completed an internship for one of my classes and that company had created a position for me and asked me to stay. Wow! Right out of the gate, I had a job opportunity in my field of study, paying more than I had ever made, and I was told that was just the low-end start. My salary would increase quickly. But there was something inside that just didn’t feel right. On paper, it sounded perfect. Was this the door I was supposed to walk through? I had moved out of my parents and had my own apartment, car payment, insurance and expenses and, of course, student loans. This job offer fit perfectly into my plans of being the first to complete college in my family and never having to worry about finances. Secure that successful job and make money to pursue my dreams was my goal. But how come I wasn’t excited about it? I had talked to my dad and he told me that it was a good offer and I should take it. I was volunteering as youth pastor for our church, but there was no money to compensateme for my time. It was all volunteer and although there was a knowing in my heart that I was to do ministry, maybe it was just to be my side gig. I had taken a week off work to take my youth group to summer camp. The last night of camp, one of the boys in my group came to pray for me and began to say things that could only have come from the Holy Spirit because I had not talked to anyone but the Lord about the pulling in my heart to full time ministry. He told me I needed to follow what He wanted for me and He would take care of the rest. I knew, then and there, I could not take that job offer. I knew that the job required travel and putting in 110%. It would have to be my priority and that path would pull me away from ministry. But how would I pay the bills? What would I tell my Dad who told me I should take the job? How was this going to look to my peers (because appearances mattered a lot to me)? What would I tell my boss who had created an amazing position for me at this company? I didn’t know the answer to those questions, I just knew that I had to refuse the job offer and then figure out the rest.
When we got home from camp, my dad called me and asked if I would have lunch with he and my mom after church that next day. I told him I would, and I knew that this would be a great time to break it to him that I wasn’t going to take the job offer. I was nervous. But, before I could say anything at lunch, my dad began to say, “I know I told you that you should take that job, but I just haven’t felt right about that and I think I was wrong. I think you are supposed to come on staff at the church. But we can only pay you $300/month right now so you can move back home, or you will have to do something else to supplement your income”. Well, the first part was great! I didn’t have to break it to him, he had given me his blessing to refuse the job offer. The second part, however, wasn’t at all what I had planned. I certainly didn’t want to move back home. Remember how I worried about appearances? I didn’t want to appear that I had somehow failed. The next day, my boss and I had to pick up a client at the airport and so we had a lot of drive time. I broke it to her that I couldn’t take the job. I told her that while it was a very attractive offer, there was something inside of me that knew I would be making a mistake. She couldn’t understand my logic, that I would turn down her offer with literally no plan for why other than a feeling. So, I started working at the church. My office was literally in a room smaller than a closet in a back corner and had a brother typewriter and clip-art books to create flyers and newsletters. Part of my degree was marketing and communications and I had just left a job with the latest computers and design programs for developing marketing materials and now I’m in my back corner wondering if I have made a huge mistake. On the side, I sold makeup and took whatever odd jobs came my way. One day, my old boss showed up to surprise me and take me to lunch. She saw my office set up and kept looking at me like, “what are you thinking? I literally handed you the moon with a large office, all the latest equipment, impressive title and amazing compensation plan. Yet, here you are.” While her logic seemed correct, I was at peace with my decision. And, while I hadn’t quite figured out what God had in mind, I knew I would be alright, if I just followed His leading.
Just two weeks into my new job at the church, a lady walked through the door from a non-profit organization in town that served the needs of at-risk childrenand teens. She told me that the city had received a grant to help the children and teens in the neighborhood where our church was located. At the time, we were leasing a store front building in what was one of the worst areas of town. Up to this point, I was serving the teens that happened to drive over to the church and we had purchased property across town and were building. We wouldn’t be here long. I hadn’t even thought about the neighborhood right behind us. To make a long story short, that encounter would lead to our church starting a ministry to the children and teens of our neighborhood that brought 75 at risk kids into our building the very first day. In a short time, Operation H.O.P.E. (Helping Others Prepare for Excellence) was going full throttle, the church was growing, and I was busier than I ever dreamed I would be. We didn’t have a gym or big facility for kids to play. We would literally pull all the chairs up each day in the area where we had church service so that we could create a large playspace. We would put one chair at one end of the room and another at the other end. A tall child would stand on each chair and hold a trash can and we called that, “chair basketball”. They loved it! We couldn’t keep the kids away and more and more came every day, even though we would make them do homework before they could play. These were latch-key kids who didn’t have structure. Yet, we gave them structure and made them behave and they couldn’t wait to get off that bus and come in. Why? Because they knew that we loved them. I was able to begin to draw a salary from the grant that kept me from having to work multiple jobs so that I could focus on Operation H.O.P.E. and we were able to employ a staff. In a matter of months from when I made the decision to take the way of faith that didn’t seem to make any sense, God began to show me that He had a plan all along and just wanted me to be obedient. If you know anything about non-profits, it’s not a way to get rich and it requires a commitment of the heart. And, when resources are tight, it doesn’t matter, if there is enough love to go around. Operation H.O.P.E. Neighborhood Ministries would grow and move into another building with a real gym and would expand into a second community four hours away reaching even more children. Both ministries are still going and growing today and the countless lives that have been touchedand the love that you find at both places is beyond imagination. The relationships I gained during my time running this ministry, who are still a part of my life, is priceless. And, I just needed love, over any other resource.
Six weeks before my late husband, David, and I were to be married, he got a notice from his job that he must take a transfer to another city or take a severance package. We were in that exciting mode of planning to start our lives together as husband and wife and we were so excited. Then, BAM! Out of nowhere, a suckerpunch. Now what? Does he take the job transfer and we leave our family and our church? That meant that I had to leave Operation H.O.P.E., too. We would be making the decision based upon financial security. David made more than I did, but again, we didn’t feel like it was the right decision. So, we made the completely irrational decision to take the severance money and all his stocks and 401K money and start our own business. It didn’t make any sense in the natural, but we had learned to trust God and be obedient and He would take care of us. So, as soon as we got home from our honeymoon, we went to work building a new business, on top of the ministry demands. Of course, money was tight. Then, six months into our marriage, I was expecting our first child. None of this was in my life plan to be the first to graduate college, go on and land a successful job, get married, buy a large, beautiful home, and have children who attended the best private schools and host amazing get togethers for all our friends . . . you know the dreamstory. Instead, we were living in a run-down old house way out in the country that we were trying to renovate before the baby arrived, stretched between trying to build our new business and run a ministry that struggled for resources. On the outside, this didn’t appear to be the dream, but I must tell you that amidst the struggles, there was enough love and that made it alright. I can tell you story after story of the ups and downs of financial struggles and being literally spent because there was so much to be done and so little time to do it. But those are not the things that stick out to me. It is truly the people who I have loved and continue to love.
When my husband was battling cancer, we needed $42,000 to help him get the treatment that he needed. Within two weeks, people who loved us gave so that we could get the help David needed. These people knew that we loved them and when we had nothing else to give them, we had given them love. They returned the love in such an amazing show of support. When my husband passed away, the crowd of people who drove hours to come to his memorial was unbelievable. The number of posts on social media talking about how much our family meant to them and how they were lifting us up in prayer was mind-boggling. David had no life insurance, I was up to my eyeballs in medicalbills and funeral expenses and now I was raising two teenagers on my own and I had lost my job. I won’t lie, the amount of stress and overwhelming fear that this added to our grief was a crushing weight. So, it may sound really cliché to say, but there was enough love and cliché or not, that is the truth. And, God has carried us month after month during this time. I keep asking Him what I need to do and He just keeps telling me to be obedient and do what He says, when He says. I’ve had doors open that He wouldn’t let me walk through. In my mind, these opportunities have made sense, but I’ve come too far to walk through doors because they “make sense”. I always want to be available to Him when His door opens. And, He remains faithful to me.
I am a giver. I love to give. When I see a need and have the financial resource to meet it, I’ll do it. But there have been times that I saw a need and I did not have the money to give. Yet, I’ve never had a shortage of love. There is always enough love to give away, if we will just do it! And the value of love is far beyond any monetary gift that someone could give. Giving love is like giving a hug. When you give it, you get an instant return on your investment. And, according to 1 Corinthians 13, when everything else passes away, love will never pass away. Love will never fail. We can take love to Heaven with us. There is nothing else on this earth that we can earn that will last for eternity. Nothing! It will all pass away. There are lots of times that I’ve been at a real shortage of even faith and hope when it seems like everything is falling apart around me. But I’ve always had love.
I remember when I bought my first car. It was brand new, hot off the lot. I was so excited. A man I worked with lived by the car wash and he would see me there all the time washing my car. He told me, one day, “you are going to wash the paint off that car!” I was just so proud of that car and kept it spotless. But, one day, on the way to class, I lost control on the ice and flipped my precious car on its side, bending the frame and totaling it. I remember the wrecker pulling it away as I watched, and I was heartbroken. Go ahead and laugh. But, you now what I’m talking about. I almost had it paid off and it was in pristine condition because I had taken such good care of it. Yet, now it was heading to the junk yard to be scrap! Well, even if I had not totaled my car that day, how much do you think it would be worth today. And, would I want to still be driving it? It was a 1989 Ford Escort. Yeah, that’s right! Ok, go ahead and laugh, now. But,don’t we all do that? Don’t we place so much value on things that will age and deteriorate, and we work so hard to amass those things that we lose sight of the things that really matter? Do we spend so much time working to bring home money that we lose valuable time to give and receive love from those who are a part of us?
This last year has been difficult and honestly the past couple of months even worse, when it comes to financial needs. I’ll be honest that it does overwhelm my mind so often. I’m doing math in my head every morning and jotting down figures on paper to try to solve the equation of “how is this all going to get paid”. Then, out of nowhere, enters ANOTHER BIG MEDICAL BILL! Well, he wasn’t invited to the party! Yet, this morning, all I could hear going through my head as I started to wake up was . . . Always enough! This is how the Holy Spirit wakes me up and pushes me out of the bed. This is when I know I need to put what is in my thoughts down on paper so I don’t forget it and maybe I can share it to help someone else. The fact is, there is always a shortage of resources on this earth. We are never satisfied with what we have, no matter how much or how little that is. We never will be because it is just stuff. Although I’m not always sure how everything is going to get paid, I’m surrounded by the love of my family and friends and God has been so faithful month after month. He will provide. He always does. He always opens a door when I have a financial need, somehow. But, if I had everything and never woke up wondering how I was going to pay the bills, yet didn’t have love in my life, I would be a very sad person. And, if I made my decisions based upon “my” needs rather than being obedient to God, I would be very empty and lonely. But I am none of those things and for that, I am blessed!
“Love is NOT the only thing that there is just too little of. It’s just that we are holding it back.”
Another thing I have learned is that giving love when you are going through the trial of your life is the best emotional therapy you can get. I’ve had people call and tell me their struggles and then apologize because they felt like they were unloading on me and I already had a load to carry. But contrary to what they may think, being able to love them and help them by listening and praying and just giving a hug, meant more to me than anything. It’s healing, and, I don’t run out of it. There is always enough to give.
The fact is, the song is wrong. Love is NOT the only thing that there is just too little of. It’s just that we are holding it back. Maybe you are holding back giving love because you have been hurt in the past because you gave it away and didn’t see a “return on your investment”. Well, that’s the thing about love, you give it away, expecting nothing in return. Look at Jesus. He gave everything for the sake of love and was spit on and ridiculed, beaten and murdered. So, how did He gain? If you know Christ, like I know Him, you will know the answer to that. His reward is the love returned by those who believe that He was who He said He was–God in the flesh, come to earth to set us free from the clutches of hell. The Jews thought that “The Promise” was that He would set them free from the bondage of people and problems of this life here on earth, but He knew what He was doing was far greater than that. There will always be evil in this world and unfortunately innocent people suffer because of the evil. But Jesus won a victory that spans beyond this mortal life and He did it for us. By receiving His love, I know that my sweet David was not a prisoner to death, hell and the grave but he is alive with Christ forever! He is free from the bondage and pain that his mortal body brought on this earth and is finally receiving that love, face to face with Jesus. By receiving His love, I know that the trials of this life, however great they are, will pass away (just like my Ford Escort). I know that all the things I’ve hoped for and dreamed of will one day be just a memory. But the love in my heart for all the souls that I have had the privilege of knowing and loving, or who are still to come across my path will never pass away. Sure, I’ve been hurt by those that I have loved, and my love has not always been reciprocated. But that’s what we learn about love. It’s not like other investments. Whether it is received or returned in this life doesn’t matter, because I know that it will never fail! The Bible just told me that, and I believe it.
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust you, how I’ve proved you o’er and o’er. Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus, Oh for grace to trust you more.Public Domain (1882)
So maybe you were trying to decide how you were going to make it today. Maybe you were drowning in the constant thoughts of overwhelming issues in your life that seem too great a burden. I don’t know what you are going through, today, but I do know that you have love to give, if nothing else. And, I’m sure you can look around and know just who needs it the most. When you begin to love out of your own need, the very act of giving love will begin to help you release some of those weights that you are carrying around. I don’t just think it, I know it. “Jesus, Jesus, how I trustyou. How I’ve proved you o’er and o’er. Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus; Oh, forgrace, to trust you more.”Trust Him, today, my friend. Know that His love for you is perfect and we can love like He did. When we feel like we have nothing else to give, love. Of that, there is Always Enough . . ..
 ” What theWorld Needs Now Is Love “ (1965),lyrics by Hal David and music composed by Burt Bacharach